What is a Natural Resource Management Degree?

Natural resource management is about finding ways to sustain the Earth’s resources in the face of the growing human population. Those wanting to become natural resource managers are typically passionate about clean water, clean energy, and clean environments. They study in the classroom, in the computer lab, and in the field and learn how to apply scientific and ecological knowledge, as well as economic and social awareness to find solutions to preserving our natural world.

Coursework in natural resource management programs covers:

  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Soil science
  • Geology
  • Geography
  • Land-use planning
  • Energy use
  • Climate change
  • Natural resource policy
  • Environmental ethics

Program Options

Associate Degree in Natural Resource Management – Two Year Duration
The Associate Degree in Natural Resource Management provides students with a foundation that prepares them for entry-level jobs in the field or further study in a bachelor’s program.

The typical associate curriculum introduces topics such as:

  • Chemistry
  • Geology
  • Forest biology
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Ecological restoration
  • Natural resource policy

Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resource Management – Four Year Duration
Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resource Management often go on to work as conservation officers, environmental managers, and compliance officers.

At this level, students take courses like these:

  • Principles of Biology
  • Chemical Bonding and Organic Chemistry
  • Natural Resources Science and Management – forestry, soils, rangeland, water, fisheries, wildlife
  • Dendrology – survey of the structure, function, ecology, and identification of trees
  • Forest Ecology and Silviculture – forest ecosystems, soil characteristics used in assessing site quality
  • Forest Mensuration – techniques of photo mapping and photo-based inventory systems
  • Natural Resource Pathology – the life cycles and management of tree disease
  • Public Policy Process
  • Life Sciences Statistics
  • Introduction to Archaeology
  • Geographic Information Systems – geospatial data models, geoprocessing procedures
  • Fisheries Management – stock management and restoration, fisheries policy
  • Contemporary Issues in Natural Resources Management

Master’s Degree in Natural Resource Management – Two to Three Year Duration
Natural resource management master’s programs typically focus on research within a specific subfield of the natural resource sector. These include:

  • Ecology and land management
  • Fisheries management
  • Natural resources policy
  • Outdoor recreation and parks management
  • Urban forestry – management of trees in urban environments
  • Water management – water ecosystems, water and society, water and economics
  • Wildlife conservation

Here are samples of courses offered within these specialized areas:

  • Community Planning and Regional Development
  • Earth Systems (geosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere) and global change
  • Ecological Economics
  • Ecological Risk Assessment
  • Energy Systems
  • Environmental Law
  • Research Methods
  • Sustainable Tourism Planning

Students who graduate with this master’s degree have employment options in both the public and private sector. They often take on management roles in areas like ecological research, wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement, and parks administration.

Doctoral Degree in Natural Resource Management – Four to Five Year Duration
Most students who commit to earning a Doctoral Degree in Natural Resource Management are interested in working in academic, research, or senior consulting positions in the field. While doctoral programs include some required courses, they generally give students a lot of freedom to choose electives and conduct research on their dissertation topic. Possible areas of focus include:

  • Atmospheric science
  • Ecosystem science
  • Environmental economics
  • Hydrology
  • Oceanography
  • Natural resource policy and ethics

Most programs require doctoral candidates to complete a qualifying exam, a dissertation research topic proposal, a final written dissertation, and an oral defense of the dissertation.

Degrees Similar to Natural Resource Management

Environmental Planning
Students of environmental planning study the relationship between people and the environment. They learn how to minimize the effects of human activity on the natural world. This involves examining things like our homes, our methods of travel, and our eating habits.

Energy and Environmental Policy
The focus of degree programs in energy and environmental policy is sustainable energy and water development, environmental protection, climate change policy, and green economics.

Fisheries Sciences and Management
Fishing and fisheries sciences and management degree programs focus on the biology and ecology of fish and shellfish. Students of the field learn about fisheries protection, production, and management. In short, the objective of these programs is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to maintain long-term sustainable harvesting.

Forestry degree programs teach students how to conserve and manage forests through sustainable practices. This means the curriculum covers both preserving biodiversity, as well as producing wood products in ecologically responsible ways. Classes also address contemporary issues like climate change, carbon management, and how to plan and manage urban forests or green spaces in metropolitan areas.

Forest Sciences
Programs in forest sciences teach students about the complex ecosystems of forests. The curriculum covers the scientific principles related to forest wildlife, fires, insects, soil, tree genetics, and forest regeneration.

Pulp and Paper Engineering
This degree field is concerned with pulp and papermaking processes, pulp and paper testing, paper quality, environmental control, and related new technologies.

Wildlife Science and Management
Wildlife science and management majors learn how animals exist within their habitats and ecosystems. Graduates in this field may become game wardens, conservation officers, natural resource officers, or wildlife managers.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Research
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Operations planning and project management
  • Technical report writing
  • GIS (geographic information systems) and GPS (global positioning system) software
  • Communication
  • Ethics
  • Community outreach

What Can You Do with a Natural Resource Management Degree?

Natural resource management grads typically work in one of these areas:

Land Management
Land management professionals determine how particular areas of land should be used. In doing so, they consider physical environments and biological factors like wildlife habitats, as well as the human factors of recreation, livestock development, mineral development, and energy production.

Possible roles in this sector, depending on your completed level of education, include:

  • GIS Technician
  • Range Technician
  • Soil Conservation Technician
  • Environmental Planner
  • Habitat Conservation Specialist
  • Restoration Ecologist
  • Park Manager
  • Range Manager
  • Professor

Forestry specialists are concerned with rural and urban forestry resources and how to manage them. In their work, they examine trees, plants, soil, water, wildlife, and human use.

Possible roles in this sector, depending on your completed level of education, include:

  • Forestry Technician
  • Plant Protection Technician
  • Arborist
  • Fire Communications Specialist
  • Forest Fire Management Officer
  • Research Forester
  • Soil Scientist
  • Wood Scientist
  • Forest Manager
  • Professor

Parks and Recreation
People who work in the parks and recreation sector plan and administer recreation programs. Their objective is to balance human use of natural resources with protection of those same resources.

Possible roles in this sector, depending on your completed level of education, include:

  • Parks Technician
  • Ranger Assistant
  • Recreation Technician
  • Visitor Coordinator
  • Wilderness Technician
  • Adventure Guide
  • Naturalist
  • Parks Planner
  • Consultant
  • Tour Guide
  • Activities Director
  • Public Lands Director
  • District Manager

Water Management
Individuals who work in the field of water management are concerned with water quality, water quantity, and water distribution and jurisdiction.

Possible roles in this sector, depending on your completed level of education, include:

  • Aquatic Biologist
  • Environmental Sampling Technician
  • Lab Analysis Technician
  • Hydrology Technician
  • Hydrologist
  • Hydrogeologist
  • Water Treatment Specialist
  • Water Law Specialist
  • Water Conservation Specialist
  • Plant Operator

Geoscientists study the Earth’s physical environment, including its atmosphere, oceans, and soils. They are concerned with climate change and the supplies of resources like water and petroleum.

Possible roles in this sector, depending on your completed level of education, include:


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